Steps in the Rapid Startup Design Strategy to Create a Viable Company (655-2)

The Rapid Startup Design Strategy Overall : Go stepwise, don't dawdle, constantly always ask yourself, " Is this a dead end? &qu...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

#7 Rip your startup solution apart (655-7)

Rapid Startup Design Process: Review Steps

Remember, The overall guidance is:
  • Go stepwise,
  • Don’t dawdle,
  • Constantly always ask yourself Is this a dead end?
  • Allow yourself to rethink, backtrack to an earlier step or restart
You want to be the first person to say "this is a dumb idea." It'll be a lot less embarrassing. So stand back and look at the problem, solution, and competition.

First, take the text you have written, copy it into a document, and rewrite every word and sentence as a question starting with
  • "Is it really.." 
  • "How do I know..." 
  • "Can I support the claim" 
  • "Am I qualified to ..."
Don't allow anything vague or absolute. A word like "everyone" is a clue that you are are overstating. Excessive emotion like "absolutely" and "essential" are clues that you may be biased.

The Problem: Is this really such a huge problem that people will pay for your solution? Are people really this desperate, unhappy, frustrated, or irritated? Probably not.

The Solution: Admit your weaknesses. Do you really have the resources to do this?

The Competition: Take a good long look at the competition. It's doubtful that they are weak and incapable as you made them out to be.

Sure this is depressing. Your great idea has probably been ripped up.

Inertia will ask you to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together. Don't. This is why you are being rapid. You haven't invested that much time yet. Why waste money and years of effort on a solution that will likely fail?

If there are problems, first write down the lesson you learned. This will help you avoid making the same mistake. Were you too vague? Then outline a strategy for creating a new Startup Design.

For example, if the problem isn't substantial or the competition is too strong, go back to Step #1 and find a different problem to solve or a problem with fewer competitors.

Or if the problem is okay and the competition is weak but the solution is lacking, go back to step #2 and see if there is a better solution. But don't skip past the "rip apart the solution" step the next time... Your next solution may also be poorly conceived or potentially flooded with competitors with similar capability.

Perhaps you lucked out and you have indeed found a solution to a serious problem in a market with few competitors. Onward to the next step!

Friday, April 13, 2018

#6 Create a Logo (655-6)

Rapid Startup Design Process: Review Steps
A mixture of the first
 two logos below

A logo?

Yes, a logo helps you pull together your idea to something that conveys the message to the world in the most efficient way. Pictures do indeed buy you a 100 words.

There are excellent sites to create logos for free. Note: I don't get any kickback for those links or any others

My Top Choices

Free Logo Services - My favorite
  • Process: Enter name (two lines) - Industry - Style - Font- Layout - 
  • Easily change color or manipulate layout. You can create everything you need without an account. 
  • With an account (free) you can save it and go back and edit it later. Highly recommended.
  • A white background is a default (a time saver).
  • Perfect for this purpose.  
  • Easy to change colors
  • Process: Enter name - pick 5 logos you like - add color
  • Requires login to save. Worth the trouble and no cost.
  • Icons are pretty dull. 
  • Layout and use of color are more impressive. Customizable. Great with text variations. 
  • Easy to change colors, font spacing and supports gradients.
  • It is easy to get excited about design since the tools are so well done. Hold back and go with something simple at first. You can come back later
DesignMantic -
  • Process: Choose Abstract/Symbol/Lettermark - Font - Color - Business 
  • You can't see your edit without logging in 
  • Only supports one line of text as per image to the right. This is a huge limitation (but you can paste in the extra text later if you want more lines)
  • Logos are pretty small on the website. Only useful for quick visualization but per the image to the right, sufficient for this purpose. 
  • Advanced work requires you activate the full editor which is powerful but takes a lot of time. Remember, a real logo will need to be created by a graphic designer. 
Not recommended for this purpose
  • LogoMakr - Icon search engine is more generic. A build your own solution. Too complicate for this purpose
  • Design EVO - Choose an image BEFORE putting in your name. Not useful since images aren't tailored and you can't see how it looks
  • Canva’s Online Logo Maker - The first question Sign up. No thanks
  • Free Logo Design - Name & Industry only. Too simple
  • VistaPrint Logo Maker - Not quick. Has a way to start from scratch. Not useful for this purpose
  • ... there are many many others...
Build your first logo and set 1-hour Timer! If you spend more than 30 minutes getting your first logo and another 30 refining the logo then you are wasting your time.

  1. Pick a tool above. Some have better clipart. Some are easy. Some are complicated but have more functionality. They all do the same thing - they quickly create a logo for you. 
  2. Make subtle changes in layout. Don't get hung up on your poor graphics layout skills. This logo will not be the real logo for your company. You'll need a graphic designer for that task.
  3. Make subtle changes in color. Don't worry about the exact color now. The logo designers are excellent at changing colors. 
  4. Use the snipping tool to grab a screen capture and save the low-resolution version. That's all you need now. 
  5. Sit back and think about what you like or dislike. What is it missing? Is it compelling? Does it fit? How does the name look?
Don't pay for it. I'm not being cheap. Once you start buying things you get attached to them and are unwilling to let them go. Keep your credit card in your wallet. That advice follows through all of the strategies. As soon as you start spending money you lose the willingness to dump a bad idea. And there is a 99% chance that your first idea is a bad one. Most sites will try to make you pay for a "high quality" version. You don't need it.

Take another hour and build a few more. If you haven't identified 3 or more decent logos in 2 hours then you are taking too long. Now you have something that you can give a graphic designer something that shows what kind of images you like, what text you want to show (if any) and what colors appeal to you.

Get some input. Confirm with others that you have a logo that accurately describes a company that you want to create and meets your objectives. If you can't accomplish that, then perhaps this idea is already dead. Think up another.
A mixture of the second two logos
  1. Choose the best logo
  2. Show it to someone. Folks should be able to look at your logo and think, "That sounds like a neat idea, tell me more". If they don't love it show them the others and ask why one is better than another.
  3. If everything bombs then dump them all and create another set logos
  4. Later, you may need to edit to make the background transparent if your background isn't white (XnView Image/Convert to Color choose 256, Image/Edit Palette select background, check "enable transparency" save
If you have a compelling logo then move on...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#5 What Words Describe the Solution to the Problem?

Rapid Startup Design Process: Review Steps

Identify words that describe the solution to the problem you have identified. A few words will do.

What aspects of the solution are the most important or compelling? 
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple
  • Organic
  • Healthy
  • Novel
  • Powerful
  • Empowering
  • Hopeful
  • etc.
What kind of problem is it?
  • Expensive
  • Time-consuming
  • Confusing
  • Frustrating
  • Inadequate
  • etc.
Mix match and come up with a simple phase the explains the solution

For example, RapidStartupDesign.com will help save you time and money by following a rapid and free process to build a company that follows your values.

rapid free build startup

Sunday, April 8, 2018

#4 What's the Name of your Solution? (655-5)

Rapid Startup Design Process: Review Steps

Before you expend a ton of effort explaining and defining the solution, you need to give your solution a name. The name, of course, can range from something boring and descriptive (e.g., "Bob's Hamburgers") to meaningless - "Xentropy". Prepare yourself for the reality that this is actually a lot harder and will take far more than time than you would expect.

Finding a name will force you to define a clear solution to the problem. People don't buy a product that is described in 1000 words. They either see an image or a name. So start with finding a name for the solution you want to provide.

It would be helpful to get a URL that is close to or matches that name so that is likely the major constraint. Especially if you want a .com URL. Plug the name and variations of the name into your favorite name search engine. Consider an .io or .bio or .studio name. They are easier to get and for now appear to be just as acceptable.

The process of finding a good name is best done

  1. Brainstorming and come up with a wide range of potential names. 
  2. Decide what direction you want to go with a name 
  3. Seek additional names that are similar to that direction.
  4. See if you can find a URL that matches closely
  5. Get input.

If after to you tell someone the name, the person's head is tilted when you present it, perhaps that isn't a winner. You are looking for a very positive response, but not for everyone. Remember you have an ideal customer. Your name might be great for a single tech wizard in their 20s but fail for a 40 yo stay-at-home mom (or vice versa). That's ok.

Be wary of asking others for ideas. Other people tend to love their ideas and hate everyone else's name. So when you come back to them with a different name that might be perfect they are likely to reject it in favor of "their" name. So you have lost a potential contributor.

Before you get too attached check out the trademark database. And then google it. See if it is a word in another language. After a while, you will see why car companies often name their product after numbers like 320i and "Bob's Hamburgers". But the next time you will have a better idea of what will work for your target audience and what kind of names appeal to you. It'll go much quicker.

Once you have a clean name and URL, sleep on it and see if you are as excited tomorrow. Then find some other people who have never heard about your struggle to find a name. Do they like it? Do they like the URL? Given the name can they spell the URL and plug it into a browser?

Next up we need some words to describe the solution to the problem you plan to address.

Friday, April 6, 2018

#3 Find the competition and see if you can compete (655-4)

Rapid Startup Design Process: Review Steps

Your next step is to outline who is also trying to solve this problem. Every product or service has competition. Folks can spend their money and time elsewhere.

OK. So you are convinced that no one is specifically trying to solve this problem that only you have identified. That's pretty convenient - and unlikely. And it won't last for long. So find someone who does something similar and assume they will migrate what they are doing to address the problem. Deluding yourself is not a way to build a viable company.

Remember, every company is competing with a broad way to spend money and time. Think television and movies. People can choose to spend their time and energy and money on watching television or going to a movie rather than addressing your problem with your solution. Find the closest potential competitor. As an example, airlines compete with cars for short 1 hour flights. Autonomous cars could potentially provide a "moving hotel" that would compete with airlines for 2 hours long flights. There is always a competitor.

Write them all down and identify why they aren't the perfect solution to the problem and why they can't easily become the perfect solution.

In all likelihood, they are the perfect solution or they can easily become one. It's annoying but almost always true. In a competitive environment, there are few vacuums. Stop now. You are wasting your time. Go back to the first step and identify a different problem or provide more detail.

Inertia will hurt you in your desire to start a company. Over time you will spend more and more time convincing yourself that you can "beat" this competition. You're great and wonderful and insightful, right? Yeah, and they have customers, are motivated, and are already succeeding. Be honest, if you were them would you be afraid of you and your novel company?

Or ask yourself, would they buy me out to get rid of me as a competitor? If the answer is yes, you are on the right track.

I repeat, if a competitor can already solve your problem or easily adapt what they are doing to solve your problem then stop now and stop wasting your time. Find a different problem to solve.

Monday, April 2, 2018

#2: Define a Problem Worth Solving (655-3)

Rapid Startup Design Process: Review Steps

If you want to launch your startup, efficiency is key.
  • Why waste time pursuing a bad idea that no one wants? 
  • Why pursue a good idea that no one wants to pay for? 
  • Why fix a problem that people see but which you won't address? 
In the next few posts, I'll discuss a logical strategy to guide you as you pursue your potential startup.

To get started, write down the problem for an individual. __________________

This is a problem that a person has, right? Don't list a problem for "people" or "society." Groups and institutions don't buy products, people do.

Then consider doing a simple "Problem Interview" with someone who you believe is in your target audience:
  1. Create a story for a persona. "I know this person, Jack, who is struggling with ___. What would you do?"
  2. See if the problem/challenge resonates with your interviewee. 
    1. NO? Perhaps that person isn't your target. Try someone else. 
    2. Still NO? Seems like you perceive a problem that others don't.
  3. YES! What part of it resonates? Define the top three problems in additional detail
  4. Ask them, "Are they doing anything to solve the problem today?"
    1. NO? Perhaps it isn't a problem
    2. YES! You are on your way!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

#1 Who is going to pay you?

Rapid Design Process: Review Steps

The first step is to determine who do you want to help? The goal is to find your Ideal Target Customer. Yes, a customer. The primary goal of a company is to produce or offer something that someone will pay for.

Enthusiasm is great, but if no one is willing to pay you for your solution to their problem then this business isn't going to go anywhere. If you don't care about making money then this isn't a business. It's a hobby or gift to the world. Then you are not creating a startup and this is the wrong strategy for you.

Start by making it easy. Pick someone that you know well so can guess at the problems they have, the solutions they will accept, and what they will pay for. Likely options include:
  • You in the present - eBay was created to solve a problem of the founders. It's pretty common that companies are created to solve personal problems. After all, you know yourself pretty well. 
  • You in the past. This is tricky since people like you today could be different. Buts its a good start
  • A family member or friend
  • Existing customer. It should be easy to query them about their problems and the acceptability of a solution. And you already know what they will pay for
  • Business associate or co-worker. It'll be easy to chat with them. 
  • Someone you don't know or understand. I don't recommend this. If you go this route then you had better be willing to interview 10-20 of such folks to better understand their needs, desired solution and willingness to pay.
Then clearly define the ideal customer. In fact, identify the absolute perfect customer - perhaps there is only one. This person is suffering the most with a problem you can potentially address and will be most excited about the potential of your solution to solve it. They have cash and if you had the product available they would buy it. They might even seek it out and decrease your marketing costs. Parameters include:

Who: Young/Old, Rural/Suburban/Urban, Male/Female, Loves parties/like a quiet evening, Rock vs. Classical music. Keep going and defining that ideal person who is going to be so excited about your product and service that they will tell others about it.

What: What aspect of the problem is so troublesome for them? Perhaps you should focus your solution on that aspect.

Why: Why is this a problem specifically for them. In other words, why is this problem such a challenge? The ability of your solution to remedy that problem is what will make them ideal (or unhappy)

When: How quickly will they act? Is this something they will jump on immediately or will this purchase require time because of approval, price comparison, feature comparison, compatibility concerns, security concerns, high expense, the risk of failure, lifestyle change, etc. Your ideal customers will have few constraints and be able to purchase quickly. Others will be slower so your planning should account for the delays.

If you don't have an ideal customer that is so excited by your solution to their problem that they will pay for it, then you don't have an idea worth pursuing any further. If you can't excite them then your prospect is bleak.

Don't give in to inertia. Imagine how frustrated you will be if you spend your time and a huge boatload of money trying to convince folks that you do indeed have a great solution that they should pay for - and it fails. If the value of your design isn't obvious to the ideal customer then there simply isn't enough value.

Remember, there aren't many such customers so they alone won't create a viable business (unless you are Apple and we're talking about the iPod or the iPhone). The ideal customer is critical but not sufficient.

If you have an ideal customer laid out in detail then move on and define the problem they want to solve.